Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stepped down today.
Credits: SunMedia/Greg Henkenhaf
About a decade ago, when the federal Liberal Party was being destroyed by the ambitions of a few — and when I was a disillusioned aide for then-premier Jean Chretien — I got a call.
"If they don't want you, we do," said the Dalton McGuinty confidante on the other end of the line. "Come and help us and we'll win."
So I did. And we did — win, that is. In 2003, in 2007 and 2011.
In all that time, my take on the Ontario Liberal MPP was always the same: With this guy, what you see is what you get.
He loves his country, and he loves his province. He loves his family. He believes in public service. He's a genuinely nice guy.
I never saw him lose his temper. I never saw him treat a staffer or a volunteer with anything other than respect. I never saw him act like a phoney.
That's why, in part, so many of McGuinty's political adversaries paid tribute to him last night. They, too, considered McGuinty to be a genuinely nice guy.
So, do nice guys always finish last?
Not McGuinty. And, if — as it is widely rumoured — he seeks the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, he'll be more than a contender. Three reasons.
One, he has government experience. The other expected candidates, as impressive as they are, just don't. Government experience counts, particularly at times like these. Particularly against a cagey opponent like Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Two, McGuinty has a winning record. He's the longest-serving premier. He's a survivor. And, as noted, he has won three back-to-back victories — two majorities, and one very near majority. That's not bad.
Three, McGuinty has built up the most successful Liberal machine in Canadian politics. All of that team — and, full disclosure, I had the privilege to run his war room in all three of his election campaigns — will follow him wherever he goes. With the help of the likes of political strategist Don Guy, deputy chief of staff Dave Gene, chief operating officer Laura Miller and the premier's brother Brendan, McGuinty has been the winningest Grit in Canadian politics.
Will he run for the top federal Grit job? Should he? The pundits and the pollsters will moot those questions endlessly, in coming days.
But know this: If Dalton McGuinty seeks the federal Liberal leadership, he'll win it.
So, to curious Liberals across Canada, I recommend not making any commitments. I also advise sticking by your phones over the next while.
You never know who might call.